Restorative Environments: Do you need a vacation?

One of the main purposes of GladSpace is to encourage you to find spaces in the world that enhance your happiness. We also try to promote positive mental habits so your brain can also be a GladSpace for you to ruminate and thrive. This post is focused on what steps to take when you NEED a vacation – as a result of stress from your job, you’re bored in the mundane rhythm of your day-to-day life, your friends or family may be overwhelming – but you can’t actually hop on a plane and head to Bora Bora for a month. #dilemma

If you find yourself needing a change or a mental vacation try venturing outside and purposefully spending time sitting on the ground somewhere soaking in the natural environment. If your initial reaction is “that doesn’t sound nearly as fun as a real vacation in Bora Bora”, I hear you. I encourage you, however, to maintain an open mind and give this exercise a try. I’m extremely passionate about the powerful healing qualities that nature possesses, and if you cannot afford the time or luxury to jet off to a relaxing all-inclusive vacation, what do you have to lose from giving my “backyard nature immersion” experience a try!?

So how does it work? Finding a natural space can be difficult if you live in an urban environment, but try to find a quiet place in a park or area without lots of construction and concrete. If you live in a rural area, try exploring a new natural environment that you’ve never been to before – go on a hike, find a stream to sit by, or simply sit next to a big tree in the woods. Once you find your new GladSpace in the natural environment, you can let the restorative powers of this habitat begin to alter your mental state, energy level, and emotions. Without conjuring all of the stressors in your life, take this time to solely focus on the natural world around you. Touch your surroundings and feel the power and mystery of its origin. Engage your mind only towards the nature you’re surrounded by – admire the colors and shapes, question the contents of the soil you’re standing on, and feel a connection with any animals you may see. Breathe. Deeply. Inhale the beauty and serenity from your surroundings and feel the air spread throughout your body. Exhale your stress and push any negativity out of your body. Sit or stand in this space for at least 20 minutes and think about how this peaceful natural environment can shed lessons of positivity into your soul. If you are by a stream, notice the regularity or differences in the speed in which the water flows and note that your life, too, can be smooth or rapidly chaotic at times. That’s okay. That’s natural. The most important thing to remember is to feel as calm and pure as the water in the stream at all times. You are fortunate to be alive and it is entirely up to you how to spend your mental energy.

When is the last time you’ve focused so intently on your immediate surroundings? When is the last time you’ve set aside time to engage with nature? Do you agree that nature has a calming effect that allows you to see your life in a different perspective? Don’t feel like you have to wait to “get away” from your stressors until you can go on a real vacation somewhere. Take advantage of the natural world around you and restore your soul whenever you begin to feel stressed. Be unique. Be restored.

If you’re interested in the concept of local restorative environments there is lots of contemporary research on the subject and I urge you to do your own research. I suggest reviewing Steven and Rachel Kaplan’s research in environmental psychology to learn more about how particular landscapes impact people’s emotions, states of mind, and relationships with the natural world. Their research explains that when a person focuses too much on a particular subject and their mind becomes fatigued, this “mental fatigue” can be diminished upon exposure to nature, and their mood and ability to concentrate increases upon exposure to nature. Also, if you’ve ever heard of Outward bound then you are already somewhat familiar with the fact that nature has therapeutic effects on people. Nature can increase individuals’ self-esteem, enhance their sense of place in the world, inspire or calm people.

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